A romance 15 years in the making started as a teenage crush by Jay Scott
So often we pass through life like a daily drive — arriving at our destination without remembering, much less appreciating, the journey. But every so often we’re met with something that awakens us, and centers our focus on where we are now — not where we think we should be. We enshrine those moments (whether or not we recognize their consequence at the time). They remind us where we came from and compel us to become who we are.
I remember the very first time I saw May May. Allow me to set the stage: I was 13 years old and on vacation in Seaside with my friends. It was a humid, rainy night. And like so many other nights before it, we walked into town to mingle with girls in true awkward middle school fashion. Given the wet weather, the smaller-than-usual crowd gathered under the canvas-covered courtyard outside of Ono Surf Shop. I spotted her immediately. The entire crowd seemed to be buzzing around her. And I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen.
I’d like to say I walked right up to her and introduced myself. But I just gawked from a distance and speculated with my buddies about who she might be. I’d also like to tell you I knew right then and there I was going to marry that girl. But that would be an embellishment. Truth be told, the best I hoped for was to steal a kiss before our beach trip came to a close. We did end up speaking that night, but only for a few seconds — even at a young age, May May really knew how to work a crowd. A few days later the beach trip ended. I never got that kiss. But I wasn’t too bummed about it. Truth be told, she was way out of my league, and you have to be realistic.
A brief aside: despite my distaste for government, I have to give a quick thanks to the unsung district heroes who just so happened to schedule Knoxville and Birmingham spring break week to overlap every year. I couldn’t have done it without you.
So year after year, we returned to that same beach. And we’d always run into the girls from Vestavia Hills, Ala.
Five years passed like this. We’d see May May and her friends twice a year (spring break and Fourth of July), and then would return to our hometowns, to our own lives. We began to look forward to the reunion, and to see how everyone had grown since we last met. Each time I met her I grew more captivated by her person. I used to say May May was like a mustang — gorgeous and wild and certainly not meant to be tamed. But before you take that as sappy, horses had never liked me, nor I them. She and I would butt heads for years. If I thought of her as a mustang, she likely thought of me as a jackass, and rebuffed all my advances.
Regardless, with each passing year, I grew bolder. At that point all of our friends had become fairly close, and we would spend most nights on the back porch of my family’s beach house eating lasagna, playing guitar and sneaking a few beers. At 17 years old, after much persistence, I finally got that kiss.
The next summer is when things really took off. I was 18, and had three summer trips planned to Seaside before I left for college, all of which overlapped with May May and her crew. Coincidence? Providence? I’ll let you decide. But I can tell you I was happy about it. I threw everything I had at her. I got into the gym, wrote love letters, songs, cooked dinners, the whole nine yards. I even took up texting. For those that know me, that is quite the effort. It was the most romantic summer of my life, and it passed all too quickly. Before I knew it I was at Clemson, and she at Auburn.
Despite the distance, some of the best years of our lives were ahead of us, and I wasn’t about to let this slip away. And we were true to that effort. For our first real date, I drove to Auburn to pick her up for a concert in Birmingham and back that same night. One trip led to another, and so on until I could finally call her my girlfriend. College was an incredible time for us. It’s when we really began to uncover all our common interests, but it was also a time of much uncertainty. I can still remember the sickening feeling I’d get when we’d leave each other, not knowing when (or if) we’d see each other again. And though we kept it to ourselves, at times we’d both wonder, where is this going? Is this sustainable?
Turns out it was. And as college came to a close, we had our biggest step to make yet: co-locating. Needless to say we were thrilled when we both got jobs and began living in the same city (our current home) Nashville, Tenn. We couldn’t believe that we were only a 10-minute drive from one another. During our past few years we made new friends and pursued our passions for traveling, good food, live music and the outdoors. But most importantly, we’ve worked patiently together growing into the individuals that we each needed to become, which really only left one thing.
On April 15, 2017, I asked May May to marry me on that same back porch in Seaside. Much to her surprise, her friends and family were all there to celebrate, too (about 30 people; a real testament to how loved she is). Thanks again to all of you for making that trip and sacrificing your Easter weekend. It’s a trip we’ll never forget.
So here we are, 15 years from where it all began. To help you visualize that, 15 years ago we were listening to Matchbox Twenty and R. Kelly on first generation iPods. We can’t wait for our wedding day of May 5, 2018, in Birmingham. The thought of having our friends and loved ones from all different parts of our lives in attendance absolutely thrills us. It will be one to remember.
Ours has truly been a story of love conquers all. Our relationship has overcome obstacle after obstacle. And it’s shaped us into the people we are today. I am incredibly thankful for the kindness, patience and forgiveness that God has allowed May and me to show each other over the years. People say the heart knows what it wants, and that’s true. I’ve known that for a very long time now. And I couldn’t be more eager to spend the rest of my life with you, May May Cates.